Germany sailed effortlessly into the quarter-finals with the almost total domination of a Slovakia side whose plans – namely to defend in numbers and hope for a set-piece or counter-attack goal – went out of the window within 10 minutes.
Of all the goal threats Slovakia will have discussed negating, they won't have spent much time on Jerome Boateng: the Bayern centre-back hadn't scored in hie previous 62 caps. That changed in the 8th minute when a Slovakian clearance landed to him 20 yards out, and the former Man City defender cleverly steered it into the goal, aided by a slight but somewhat irrelevant deflection.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 26, 2016
Germany could afford a fluffed penalty – Mesut Ozil's shot being much less forceful than the gormless Martin Skrtel shove that gave away the spot-kick. By the halfway point the German domination was clear in the final-third passes completed: 35 vs 7.
More crucially, by the half-hour they had allowed Germany 11 attempts at goal – meaning they were on course to concede as many shots as they did to England (29), although that fell away in the second half once the German job was done (they declared at 21).
Interestingly, although Toni Kroos was as reliably distributive as ever, just after the half-hour Germany's most prolific attempted passer in the final third was Jerome Boateng, spreading medium-length balls about – some to get behind Slovakia, some as Germany played in front of them.
Even so, it took a world-class Manuel Neuer save five minutes before half-time to keep Germany in front. And a couple of minutes thereafter, Julian Draxler drifted down the left and pulled back for Mario Gomez to make it 2-0 with the Germans' 15th first-half attempt on goal. Game over?
Possibly not, or so it seemed in the first 15 minutes after the break. Slovakia had replaced the unreliable Vladimir Weiss with his fellow former Bolton Wanderers loanee Jan Gregus, and the increased solidity gave them more confidence and possession in midfield: in the run-up to the hour they piled up 88 passes to the Germans' 54.
However, again Germany responded impressively. Just after the hour a corner from the right was nodded on by Mats Hummels and Draxler, hovering at the back post, showed excellent technique to turn the falling ball goalwards for only his second international strike.
22 - Julian Draxler (22y 280d) is the youngest player with a goal & assist in a EURO game since Cesc Fàbregas in 2008 (21y 37d). Skill.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) June 26, 2016
That third goal deflated Slovakia, while Germany treated the remaining half-hour as part training exercise, part testimonial, subbing the carded Boateng and bringing on fringe players.
They had done more than enough by then. Kroos continued to control the game – he ended up with just the 87 completed passes – while Ozil recovered his composure after the penalty fluff to create a game-leading five chances. Meanwhile, Draxler looked at home in the first team and Thomas Muller moved with typical intelligence.
Meanwhile, the ball-playing defence are still to concede a goal, while any chances they do allow are met with the formidable obstacle of Neuer. Although largely untroubled by a poor Slovakia team, Germany appear to be clicking into gear with ominous timing, and their game next weekend against either Italy or Spain – the two teams to have beaten them at the previous two Euros – may well feature the next continental champions.
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Gary Parkinson is a freelance writer, editor, trainer, muso, singer, actor and coach. He spent 14 years at FourFourTwo as the Global Digital Editor and continues to regularly contribute to the magazine and website, including major features on Euro 96, Subbuteo and the inside story of Liverpool's 1990 title win.
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